Stress can be a disability under the Chicago Social Security rules

“Stress” is not specifically identified in the Social Security Administration’s listings of impairments. However, there is a listing for “Anxiety-related disorders” and stress could be considered under this category.

A Social Security ruling discusses stress and mental illness

Even though stress is not a listed impairment, the Social Security Administration has recognized that stress can be the basis for a Chicago Social Security disability claim and it has issued a ruling that discusses stress in the context of mental illness.

That ruling notes that mentally impaired people may have difficulty adjusting to work demands, and emphasizes that it is important to thoroughly evaluate the affects of stress on an individualized basis.

The ruling goes on to say that mentally impaired people may not be able to function effectively if they are required to get to work regularly, have their performance supervised, and stay in a workplace for a full day. The ruling gives examples of how even a “low-stress” job may be too much for a mentally impaired person, suggesting that such a person might have unusual responses to what would seem to be trivial circumstances, so that the person might become panicked and develop palpitations, shortness of breath, or feel faint while riding in an elevator, or might experience terror and begin to hallucinate when approached by a stranger asking a question.

Cases have dealt with claimants who have based their disability on stress

In one case, a claimant sought Social Security disability benefits on the basis of a heart problem, a head injury, and nervousness. The claimant had suffered a head injury that led to a combination of both physical and emotional ailments, including chest pain, anxiety, and agoraphobia. The claimant testified that his daily activities were extremely limited, and that he feared going outside and was incapable of driving. Furthermore, three doctors submitted reports concluding that the claimant was totally incapacitated as a result of anxiety, although the Social Security medical advisor testified that these reports were not supported by objective medical evidence.

The Administrative Law Judge concluded that the claimant suffered from a severe mental impairment and was incapable of returning to his previous jobs, which had been a busboy, a cashier, a taxicab driver, and an office manager. However, the Administrative Law Judge denied disability benefits because he concluded that the claimant was not disabled. The judge based this conclusion on his opinion that there were low-stress jobs that the claimant could do.

The Court of Appeals vacated this decision and sent the matter back for a further assessment of the claimant’s vocational capabilities. The court noted that the Administrative Law Judge’s ruling did not include information on the nature of the claimant’s stress, the circumstances that triggered it, or how those factors affected his ability to work. Noting that stress reflects an individual’s subjective response to a particular situation, the court concluded that there was no basis for the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusion that the claimant could perform low stress work without an evaluation of the claimant’s vocational abilities in light of his anxiety disorder.

Get help from a knowledgeable and experienced Chicago Social Security lawyer

Chicago Social Security disability claims that raise stress as an impairment can be complicated and sometimes more difficult than other types of claims. If stress is one of your major symptoms and you are not already represented by a Chicago Social Security attorney, consider asking for my evaluation. Give me a brief description of your claim using the form to the right, or you may e-mail or call my office at:

Roger S. Hutchison
Chicago Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney

E-mail me
Phone: 708-349-9333
Fax: 708-532-7778

16860 South Oak Park Avenue
Suite 100
Tinley Park, Illinois 60477
[Chicago meetings available with appointment]